In the span of two days, the Alpena softball team put itself in good position to bring home another Big North Conference title.
Lauren Heath earned two wins, Jenna VanDusen hit her first home run of the year and the Wildcats swept Ogemaw Heights, 4-0 and 9-0 on Wednesday at Alpena High School.
The wins improve Alpena's record in the Big North to 8-0 with four conference games remaining.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Jessica Marwede, left, tries to beat a throw to first base as Ogemaw infielder Bri Mairose leans to field the ball during a softball game at Alpena High School on Wednesday. Marwede was safe on the play.
Wednesday's wins come on the back of a doubleheader sweep at Cadillac on Tuesday and are a tremendous shot in the arm for Alpena going forward. Alpena (24-5, 8-0 BN) needs one more conference victory to win a share of the title and two more wins to take the title outright.
"I think we feel more confident as we go into the (remaining) BNC (games) and districts because we know if we play like we can, we can do a great job," VanDusen said.
Heath scattered six hits in two games, struck out eight and walked just two. She induced a number of ground ball outs and her teammates backed her defensively, routinely recording outs with ease.
"Lauren is a sophomore this year and she's brought her all to this team. She was a great addition," VanDusen said. "She has great speed, movement and everything. We back her up and she just pitches like she can."
After Gehrke doubled home Alex Peters in the first inning to give Alpena a 1-0 lead in the nightcap, it was VanDusen's turn to provide a big hit.
With two on and two out in the second inning, VanDusen clobbered the first offering she saw over the right field fence to give Alpena a 4-0 lead. She finished the day with three hits and two RBIs.
"That was my first home run of the year and as soon as I hit it, I could just feel it going. I think it brought up the whole team," VanDusen said. "We all just kept hitting after that and it was a great team effort."
Alpena tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning as Gehrke singled in two runs and Peters had an RBI groundout.
Gehrke had three hits and three RBIs and Elise Leeck also had three hits. Mary Schimmel added two hits.
Alpena added two more runs for good measure in the fifth inning. Kelsey Udell had an RBI single and VanDusen had a sac fly.
Ogemaw managed just three hits and never got a runner further than second base.
Alpena pounded out 11 hits in the opener and Heath pitched another gem, allowing three hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
VanDusen, Schimmel and Jessica Marwede had two hits each. Peters scored two runs.
For as well as they hit the ball, Alpena wasn't always able to bring runners home and left 10 runners on base for the game. In each of the last two innings, Alpena scored a run, but also left the bases loaded.
Alpena scored two runs in the first inning after an RBI groundout by Logan Myers and a sac bunt from Gehrke.
Peters doubled to lead off the fifth inning and eventually scored after an obstruction call against the Falcons. The initial call was reversed however and she was sent back to third base. She was later driven in by Marwede to give Alpena a 3-0 lead.
Myers added an RBI double in the sixth inning for Alpena's final run.
With so much riding on this week's games, the Wildcats maintained their focus and it paid huge dividends by the end of Wednesday's doubleheader.
"We started to focus on Monday during practice," VanDusen said. "After that we knew it was game time and we brought our all and showed them how to play Wildcat softball."
Ogemaw managed just one base runner through the first four innings and couldn't do much to rally back. In the fourth inning, Ogemaw's first two runners in the fourth inning walked, but Alpena was able the pick a runner off second base and then turn two easy outs to end the inning.
The Falcons got a pair of singles to start the fifth inning, but one of Ogemaw's runners was thrown out trying to steal third base and again Alpena got two easy outs to end the inning.
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.